'You're the arsonist here': NBC's Chuck Todd confronts GOP senator over effort to overturn election results

Colin Campbell
·Managing Editor
·3 min read

NBC moderator Chuck Todd grilled Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., on Sunday about the GOP lawmaker's support for the latest far-fetched bid to overturn President-elect Joe Biden's victory.

Johnson is one of 11 senators and senators-elect who have said they will challenge the results on Wednesday when Congress meets to certify Biden's win. The states have already chosen electors representing a solid majority for the Democratic ticket; the process of counting the Electoral College votes in Congress is essentially a formality, but the Republicans in the House and Senate are mounting a quixotic effort to disqualify enough electors to throw the election to President Trump.

Neither the Republican legislators nor Trump’s legal team have presented evidence of widespread voter fraud, but Johnson argued Sunday on "Meet the Press" that the extraordinary effort to undermine the election is warranted by the tens of millions of people who believe that the results are unfair.

"Meet the Press" moderator Chuck Todd interviews Sen. Ron Johnson. (Screenshot: NBC)
"Meet the Press" moderator Chuck Todd interviews Sen. Ron Johnson. (Screenshot: NBC)

Todd pointed out the circular logic, as Trump is the one who has aggressively promoted the false notion that Biden did not win.

“You have failed to offer specific evidence of that widespread fraud. But you’re demanding an investigation on the grounds that there is widespread fraud. So essentially, you’re the arsonist here. President Trump is the arsonist here. You’ve started this fire,” he told Johnson.

“And now you’re saying, ‘Whoa, look at this! Oh my god! All these people believe what we told them,’” Todd continued. “Because you didn't have the guts to tell the truth that this election was fair.”

The entire interview between Todd and Johnson was contentious, with the “Meet the Press” host challenging Johnson on the “vicious circle” of spreading false allegations and then calling to investigate them. Todd confronted Johnson with his earlier statement that he would back the Electoral College certification. He asked Johnson if he would investigate other outlandish conspiracy theories questioning the moon landing or the 9/11 attacks.

“Senator, I’ve had enough of this,” Todd said at one point.

“I’ve had enough of this too,” Johnson fired back, blasting both Todd and the news media generally for their coverage of the 2016 and 2020 elections.

Donald Trump and Melania Trump
President Trump and first lady Melania Trump board Air Force One at the Palm Beach International Airport. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Trump and his allies have repeatedly sought to contest the results in states narrowly won by Biden, including Johnson’s home state of Wisconsin. But more than 50 lawsuits have been thrown out by the courts as the Trump-backed legal efforts failed to supply evidence that the counts were wrong.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has urged colleagues to not back the quixotic plan to object to the Electoral College certification on Wednesday. The effort is almost certain to fail: Both the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democratic-controlled House would have to agree to reject a state’s electors. Republicans hold a narrow majority in the Senate and several Republican lawmakers have said they won’t back the resolution.

Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah was among those who have spoken out against the move, questioning the motives of colleagues in setting aside their own principles.

“The egregious ploy to reject electors may enhance the political ambition of some, but dangerously threatens our democratic republic,” Romney said Sunday in a statement. “The congressional power to reject electors is reserved for the most extreme and unusual circumstances. These are far from it. More Americans participated in this election than ever before, and they made their choice.”

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